The Adjunct by Cassandra Rose Clarke, Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine, July/August 2018

I connected with this story. Maybe because I’ve spent the last 2 years trying to get undergrads and high school students to follow formatting standards for their papers.

The narrator has been teaching at *cough* Miskatonic University. Anyone familiar with H.P. Lovecraft will recognize that place. This narrator has been trying to get her students to use a formatting for their papers, abbreviated as CFSR, which is some strange kind of hybrid citation system that connects experience as well as a bibliography.

Plot:

cov1807lg-250The narrator, a burned out adjunct English Professor, tries to get her students to follow CFSR citation formatting. When many of her students can’t do it correctly, a higher up in the college calls her into his office and insists she makes sure all her students do it perfectly.

Later, when she visits a Starbucks on campus, a long time adjunct professor there tells her to visit the “restricted section” of the library and look for CFSR. She didn’t even know there was a restricted section, so of course, she goes. What she finds is. . . a wonderful joke on the horror genre.

Character(s):

As someone who has spent a lot of time showing students how to format things, giving them examples, outlining the ins-and-outs of MS Word, and then find that only 1/4 of the students listened or even tried to use MLA or APA, I connected with this narrator really well. Her roll of the eyes, her absolute disdain for students who won’t or can’t do what is literally the bare minimum. It all fits horribly well with the eventual outcome. She goes to teach at a community college. (HA!).

Conclusion:

A really well written and fun piece of ironic fiction. I don’t know if this is something everyone would connect with as much as someone who shares the experiences of the narrator. I guess that’s every piece of fiction. But still, it’s a fun jog down a Lovecraftian horror comedy.

The Bronze Gods by Jeremy Szal, Grimdark Magazine, #16, 2018

The Bronze Gods by Jeremy Szal is a post-apocalyptic SF story set in a world in which humans have destroyed the earth and now live in a giant tower. At its base is the earth, but the earth is shrouded in a toxic mist that makes the place uninhabitable. The ruling class of this tower performs experiments on the lower classes, trying to figure out a way to make people invulnerable to the mist. The results are gruesome.

16-monster-1-300x400The plot centers around two men, one of which goes and joins the ranks of the recruits, the other stays behind until Inquisitors come calling. Sebastion, the protagonist is the catalyst the brings the whole ruling class crashing down. True to the Grimdark genre, there are some pretty graphic scenes in this piece, portraying intense violence and disturbing actions.

It’s certainly grittier than most SF–even post-apocalyptic stuff.

Strangely, I caught a number of typoes in this piece that seemed pretty obvious. I guess this is a reminder why copy editors are important. An interesting story, but not one that offers up anything new. (C-)

Tender Loving Plastics by Amman Sabet, Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine, May/June 2018

Tender Loving Plastics is a story about the foster care system. It’s a futuristic foster care system in which children who are not taken by a real family are raised by a robot mother.

cov1805lg-250The story starts when Issa is a baby. At first, we aren’t sure if she has a real parent or a robot for a parent. It is slowly revealed. No matter how human this robot mom is, it’s clear its not quite human.

Issa grows up with an older brother. For a while he is known as Good Tevor, but after an incident at school, then at home, he is known as Bad Trevor. Readers finally get a sense of what it measn that Issa is raised by a robot later in the story when a friend at school comes home with her and sees her mom and says, “Oh! You have a robot?”

When Issa tells the girl that this is her mom, the girl gets very strange and leaves without a word.

The story ends when Issa is in her 20s and she returns home to speak to the robot that she had been raised by. There are certain aspects of social life she has been deprived of–or that is, she is insuficiantly trained in understanding through what others would call “normal” parenting.

This piece is about how technology effects us as we grow up. It isn’t a secret that those who have grown up with ubiquitous social media and mobile devices suffer from more social anxiety than people who don’t. Perhaps this is due to social media specifically, or maybe it’s because they are just better at navigating a digital world compared to an analog one. Ironically, the more connected we are the more alone we feel, and while this story doesn’t quite get at this, it certainly points to the issues that future generations will face as technologies become more and more ubiquitous.